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Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's Official - Mark Warner to Run for U.S. Senate

Former Governor Mark Warner ended all of the speculation and made it official today in a video sent by email to supporters and reporters. According to Tyler Whitney of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Warner enters the race as the favorite as a poll shows him currently trouncing the two Republican candidates who have shown an interest in the race - 11th District Congressman Tom Davis (NRA "D" rating in 2006) and Former Governor Jim Gilmore (NRA "A" rated in 1997 and current NRA Board Member).

What will all of this mean for gun owners in Virginia? Mark Warner entered the Governor's race in 2001 carrying the baggage of statements he made as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia in 1993 where he supported a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a firearm (the only platform that then Attorney General Mary Sue Terry ran on in her campaign for Governor). In 1996, in his U.S. Senate campaign against John Warner, he said he supported the Clinton Gun Ban (a.k.a. the Assault Weapons Ban). As a candidate for Governor, he said he would sign a bill banning guns in recreation centers, veto repeal of hand-gun rationing (a.k.a. one handgun-a-month) but other than that would not support additional gun control laws. The NRA basically sat out that election because Mark Earley had voted for one gun-a-month in 1993 as a State Senator and Mark Warner quietly lobbied NRA to remain neutral. In the end, because Mark Warner stumbled over a response to a question in a debate (posed by yours truly) as to whether he thought the NRA had a positive impact in Virginia, NRA-ILA's James J. Baker sent out an eleventh hour letter saying Virginia gun owners should vote for Mark Earley. It proved to be too little too late and Mark Warner won by five points.

As Governor, Warner did not veto any of the pro-gun legislation that made it through the General Assembly. This includes full preemption as well as a partial roll-back of one gun-a-month - Delegate Bill Janis' bill providing that concealed handgun permit holders could by as many handguns in a month as they wanted, that were part of the 17 pro-gun bills that passed in 2004.

In truth, Warner had few hard decisions when it came to gun bills. No gun control bills passed in his four years in office and nothing like a full repeal of one gun-a-month ever passed so we don't know what he would have done. If he is elected to the Senate, it is likely it will be a wash for gun owners as far as his votes because John Warner has voted with us as much as he has voted against us. Mark Warner is no Harry Reid or Bill Richardson on guns. Both Reid and Richardson voted against the assault weapons ban. Warner at best will vote slightly better than John Warner but may vote for some gun control.

2008 is shaping up to be an interesting year.

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